By Joe Teagle

New York Times August 12, 1969 edition
New York Times August 13, 1969 edition
New York Times August 14, 1969 edition
New York Times August 15, 1969 edition
New York Times August 16, 1969 edition
New York Times August 17, 1969 edition
New York Times August 18, 1969 edition

Historic Music Festival poorly covered by New York Times

Woodstock is one of the most memorable and important concerts in U.S. history, although you wouldn’t be able to tell by New York Times’ original coverage.

There was little to no mention of the massive festival in the week leading up to the concert. Most news coverage during the week leading up to Woodstock focused on the Vietnam War, President Richard M. Nixon, and the astronauts returning home from the moon.

The first article I found on Woodstock was in the August 15 edition of the New York Times – the first day of the festival. It mentions that 346 policemen who were contracted to usher the event walked off their jobs. It also mentioned the overcrowding at bus terminals and the enormous lines to get to the concert. Most of the coverage on this day had an aura of unease.

“There was little to no mention of the massive festival
in the week leading up to the concert.”

 

New York Times fails to grasp significance of Woodstock Music Festival

On August 16, the second day of the concert, the coverage was mostly about jammed roads. Excessive numbers of people led to completely backed up roads for the entire weekend. The number of arrests, and ways to control the crowds were also discussed heavily. The significance of the event still wasn’t understood, and the primary discussion centered on the inconvenience of Woodstock.

 

New York Times shows up late to massive Woodstock Music Festival

“the young people came in droves, camping in the woods, romping in the mud,
talking, smoking and listening to the wailing music.”

On August 17, Woodstock drew front-page coverage. Again, the music festival was mostly portrayed in a negative light. According to the New York Times, what drove people to the event was “the prospect of drugs and the excitement of making the scene.” A report by the Times described the scene:“the young people came in droves, camping in the woods, romping in the mud, talking, smoking and listening to the wailing music.” The Times also described the unsanitary living conditions during the festival days, the mud-covered teenagers, the badly-manufactured drugs and the lack of food at the event. Youth was portrayed negatively once again on the 17th, with reports describing youths on the road who were “panhandling for narcotics.”

Many attendees left early, so there were several interviews in the the Times on Aug. 17th. One girl remarked “we’re vestiges of our former selves.”

“My husband and I just wanted to see what it was.”

The Times did a good job of showing both sides of the story on Aug. 17, offering both positive and negative aspects of the event. One woman who was quoted remarked, “My husband and I just wanted to see what it was. We thought it would be pretty music and pretty land to camp on. But it’s terrible. I wish we could get out.”

The New York Times should have strived for more evenhanded coverage of this event. It was only on the last day of the event that “the other side of the story” was told. Throughout the event, reporters should have gathered more interviews and investigation. Perhaps interviewing youth in the week leading up to Woodstock, as well as getting negative reactions from policemen and parents would have produced more informative stories.

Click here for a collection of Woodstock movie clips, covering several of the famous musicians.

Swami Satchidananda giving the opening speech. The crowd at Woodstock was massive. Photo credited to Mike Goff.

Swami Satchidananda giving the opening speech. The crowd at Woodstock was massive. Photo credited to Mike Goff.

 

Swami Satchidananda giving the opening speech. The crowd at Woodstock was massive. Photo credited to Mike Goff

Joe Teagle is a senior at Texas State University. Email him or follow him on Twitter.

« »